Is all-wheel drive safer than front-wheel drive? For the most part, the answer is no for many people, and yes for those who understand its strengths and limitations. The idea that all-wheel drive gives you a safety advantage in slippery conditions is an understandable misconception given the many car commercials that show all-wheel drive vehicles flying effortlessly through mud, water, and even snow. As your automobile insurance agency, we are concerned about your safety and would like to clarify a common safety misconception about all-wheel drive vehicles.
What All-Wheel Drive Means
The transmission of all-wheel drive delivers torque from the engine to all four wheels. However, this doesn’t mean that the car brakes better in wet, slippery conditions than two-wheel drive vehicles. Engine torque delivered to the wheels moves a car forward. It causes acceleration.
Braking on the other hand, is done with the car’s brakes. Both two-wheel and all-wheel drive cars have brakes on each wheel which means that all-wheel drive gives no braking advantage. While having drive in an extra set of wheels does nothing for braking, it does help with acceleration on slippery surfaces such as wet or muddy pavement as well as snow when driving in other parts of the country. There are some situations where these advantages increase your safety.
How All-Wheel Drive Gets People into Trouble
Sometimes getting out of harm’s way requires quick acceleration before something hits you. However, from the standpoint of safety, braking and steering are far more important and all-wheel drive does nothing for braking and little for steering and cornering.
All-wheel drive’s superior acceleration often causes the misinformed to drive too fast for the conditions and they soon find that they can’t brake or swerve in time to avoid a collision or running off the road. All-wheel drive can make the driver overconfident with their vehicle’s capabilities, and overconfidence causes many people to take unnecessary risks.